We just returned from California, where we attended the annual Reuben Awards (for cartoonists). It was great liberty.
Not that we didn’t have a few bumps in the road. Two flat tires. Intestinal flu (NOT swine flu, for the record). A cockroach-infested motel in Winnemucca, Nevada.
But we got to see Hollywood!
If you have never been there, you should go down to the heart of the town – Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard – and see the foot and hand prints of the great Hollywood actors pressed into the cement.
That building acts as the centerpiece of the Hollywood experience – it invites you to reminisce about the golden days of the movie industry. You can almost see the ghosts of actors like John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Gregory Peck walking the red carpet. Finding yourself standing there, you can get swept up in the glamour of it all.
But I didn’t. I thought about liberty ports.
Hollywood would be a great liberty port, if it had a Naval base. It has all the elements – tourists in shorts and baseball caps, street merchants hawking their wares, and souvenir shops on every street corner. Photo-ops are everywhere. Aspiring actors dress in character and (for a fee) let you take their pictures. (In a fifteen minute period I saw four Johnny Depp pirates walk by.)
But for all the glitter, it lacked something critical to a good liberty port. It lacked about a thousand shipmates to see it with. Don’t get me wrong – I had my family with me, so the experience was great and we had a blast. What we didn’t get, however, were the thousand sea stories that get told (and get better with age) afterwards. And that’s something you just can’t replace.
But we did get to hang out with some friends, share a few beers, and take lots of pictures. And when it was all over, it felt nice to get back home. So as far as liberty goes, it was pretty darned good.
And who knows? With a little time I’ll bet we can come up with a thousand liberty stories of our own.